Is Barcelona getting better? 5 ways it is…

Because Barcelona was getting worse?

It’s easy to see only the good when you’re a temporary visitor. You take in the glory of the Mediterranean sun, marvel at the historical sights, and find much delight in the tasty tapas and wine.

But things aren’t always bright and rosy when you’re a full-time city-dweller. Like any other, this metropolis weathers the tests of climate change, competition from other European hotspots and (simultaneously) overtourism, and pollution.

We’re happy to announce that plenty of positive changes have been made, though, and myriad more are in the works. Here are 5 ways that Barcelona is getting better for tourists and locals alike.

1. More pedestrianization

The Superilles (‘superblock’ in English) project – a mobility plan designed to give space back to the people – was actually launched in 2016. Back then, however, it faced some controversy.

But what exactly is a superblock?

Picture a 3×3 grid of nine blocks. One building block houses about 600 folk, so with a superblock we’re talking 5000-6000 residents.

Close off the inner streets to cars. Reserve them for pedestrians, cyclists, and destination traffic only. And redirect all motorized traffic to the outer streets. That’s a superblock in action. All inner streets become peaceful zones. You end up with an oasis of walking space – and more – without needing extra land.

These superblocks are a hot topic among urban planners worldwide, especially for their potential as an effective solution to help counter climate change.

After initial experiments in the Gracia district, the first full-fledged superblock was set up in Poblenou. While only a few have been built so far, the plan is to roll out 503 superblocks in total.

Barcelona Superblock
A fancy new pedestrianised section – formerly just a big road

2. A galore of greenery

With roughly 16,000 people packed into each square kilometer, Barcelona ranks among Europe’s densest cities. Despite its top-notch public transport, it holds the European record for traffic density with nearly 6,000 vehicles per square kilometer. On top of high noise and pollution levels.

To tackle all these is the Eixos Verds program. In English, ‘green axes’. It builds on research linking urban green spaces to better mental health and stronger social wellbeing across generations and social classes. Eixos Verds aims to transform one out of every three streets into green zones, so that no resident is more than 200 meters from a park or public square. Plus, the creation of several major green hubs – around 2,000 square meters each – sprinkled around the central districts.

And then, you’ve got some smaller-scale or site-specific initiatives.

La Canòpia (aka Parc de les Glòries) represents a bold makeover of a vast urban area. What used to be another road was transformed into a sprawling space filled with greenery and recreational spots for folk to enjoy. You can already explore several completed sections around La Gran Clariana, the spacious lawn sitting at the center. The next phase will be extending the tram lines that pass through the district.

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3. Even more sustainability measures

Sure, pedestrianization and green space help tackle the issue at hand. Boosting pedestrian areas and green spaces cuts down on car usage, which means fewer emissions and cleaner air.

But there’s a lot more going on where sustainability’s concerned.

Alongside the highly-developed metro, bus, and train systems, Barcelona has been upping its bicycle network. With 240 km of bike lanes already crisscrossing the city and another 60 km in the pipeline, Barcelona is set to keep its Top 20 ranking as a bike-friendly city. As of 2023, 90% of Barcelonians are just 300 meters from a bike lane.

There’s also the issue of clean energy.  Following Barcelona’s Climate Emergency Declaration, the city is gearing up to triple its solar power capacity from 2024 to 2027. One of the tools facilitating the process is the Sustainable Energy Mechanism (MES) Barcelona: a public-private partnership dedicated to the installation of solar panels and renovations of energy systems.

3 Esplanade and Photovoltaic Pergola at Barcelona Forum-min
The photovoltaic pergola at Barcelona Forum

4. World’s best bars and restaurants

As in literally, world’s best.

The 50 Best is an annual ranking of the top food and beverage establishments, with over 1,000 international industry experts voting.

As of last September, the latest list includes two of Barcelona’s finest cocktail bars. Sitting at number one is Sips, located in the trendy Eixample Izquierda district. And not far behind it (also a Top 10 joint) is Paradiso, situated in the more bohemian neighborhood of El Born. Keep in mind it’s not all about the drinks. Disfrutar, has just been voted as the world’s best restaurant for 2024!

4 World's Best Bars Barcelona-min
The world’s best bar, literally

Even if it’s not listed in the 50 Best directory, there’s the highly-esteemed Michelin guide. And guess what? The Barcelona roster now includes 28 Michelin-starred restaurants, after a few more additions in 2023.

5. Fancy new developments

So how does Barcelona compete with the likes of Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, and more?

Sustainability and public services aside, what makes a destination often so attractive are its activities and events. There are music festivals like Primavera Sound and Cruïlla, and sports competitions like F1 and Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. Even Mobile World Congress (MWC) for the telecom industry.

To top it all off, British group Time Out is gearing up for its second European opening, following the hit success of their Lisbon market in 2014. This time, they’re bringing the magic to Barcelona’s Old Port area, just across from the iconic Las Ramblas.

The project will feature fourteen kitchens, a full-service restaurant, four bars, an event space with a stage, and an outdoor terrace boasting panoramic views of the entire city. Why? So that everyone can afford and access the best of the cocktail and culinary scene.

For the latest updates on the Timeout market, you can follow on Instagram. Meanwhile, this is what the Lisbon version looks like:

5 TimeOut Food Market-min
The best of a city under one roof


After going through all the changes happening and on the way, we like to think that Barcelona is on the right track. We’ve got to admit it’s getting better – it’s getting better all the time.

Be sure to make some reservations well in advance for your next trip to the Catalan capital. And while you’re at it, remember to book your eBike tour with us!


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